Canucks lose one more player to COVID-19 list . . . AJHL shuts down two more teams . . . Miner posts third straight shutout

It was one week ago today (Tuesday) when F Adam Gaudette was removed from the ice during a Vancouver Canucks’ practice because of a positive test.

On Monday, Vancouver F Nils Hoglander was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, the 17th player Canucksoff the roster to land there. Keep in mind that being on the list doesn’t mean a player has tested positive; he might have been deemed a close contact of someone who is positive.

There also are three coaches who have tested positive, while two players off the taxi squad are believed to have tested positive or been deemed as close contacts.

So far, D Jordie Benn, F Brock Boeser, F Tyler Graovac, F J.T. Miller, D Nate Schmidt, F Jimmy Vesey and F Jake Virtanen haven’t gone into protocol, although all are self-isolating.

The Canucks, who haven’t said a word about any of this since the original confirmation of Gaudette’s status, are believed to have been hit by the P.1 variant from Brazil.

The Canucks have had four games postponed by the NHL. Two others, scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, haven’t officially been scrubbed but are showing on the NHL schedule as having been postponed.

Still, Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, told The Canadian Press via email on Monday that he expects the Canucks to complete their 56-game schedule.

While admitting that the numbers are “concerning from a health and safety standpoint,” Daly wrote that they aren’t necessarily concerning “from a scheduling standpoint.”

Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, has spoken with his son Brandon, a veteran forward with the Canucks.

“We FaceTimed (Sunday) night,” Brent told Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, “and he was pretty down and out, feeling pretty sick. Brandon has tested positive and he’s got symptoms — body aches, headaches, chills — just like you have the flu. I guess each guy is different in terms of how it affects you, especially with this Brazilian variant. For younger people to get this sick, it’s scary.”

Brandon has moved to the basement of the family’s home, away from his pregnant wife and two young children, ages two and three.

“They were just told to get into quarantine and have the wife and kids go down to the rink to get tested every day,” Brent said. “There’s a lot to this, what the families have to do now. We’re keeping fingers crossed.”

As for a return to play, well, that’s got Brent wondering. As he told Francis: “”It’s not like you’re talking two or three guys. If all these guys have been sick and they have to be cap compliant, could the Canucks come back and play? I don’t know how they can do it.”

Francis’s piece is right here.

The AJHL has suspended the team activities of two more teams on Monday. That means the AJHL now has ajhlsix of its 13 teams unable to partake in hockey activities. . . . The Camrose Kodiaks and Drumheller Dragons were in one cohort and the league says that “as the result of a positive COVID-19 test in the Camrose Kodiaks cohort . . .” both teams are suspended for 14 days, as per the league’s return-to-play protocol. . . . Earlier, the league did the same with the Drayton Valley Thunder, Grande Prairie Storm, Okotoks Oilers and Whitecourt Wolverines. . . . In normal times, the AJHL features 15 teams; however, the Canmore Eagles and Lloydminster Bobcats opted out of the return to play.

Meanwhile, there were five games in the WHL on Monday. Some highlights . . .

F Dylan Guenther scored twice and added an assist as the Edmonton Oil Kings dumped the host Red Deer EdmontonRebels, 6-1. . . . He’s got 12 goals and 11 assists in 12 games. . . . The Oil Kings (12-1-0) swept the three-game weekend series, outscoring the Rebels (2-9-2), 20-4, in the process. . . . F Kaid Oliver (8) and F Jaden Luypen, Guenther’s linemates, each added a pair of goals. . . . Luypen has 10 goals in 13 games. He finished last season with nine in 64 games. . . . This was that line’s last game together as Guenther is preparing to go into isolation before joining Canada’s U18 team for the IIHF World championship in Texas. . . . Edmonton has won each of its last 17 regular-season meetings with Red Deer. . . . The Oil Kings scored three first-period goals while enjoying a 20-1 edge in shots. . . . G Sebastian Cossa stopped 15 shots in recording his 11th straight victory. Andrew Peard, the play-by-play voice of the Oil Kings, says that ties the franchise record set by Tristan Jarry (Nov. 14-Dec. 15, 2013). . . . F Dawson Seitz, the 20th overall pick in the 2020 bantam draft, made his WHL debut with Edmonton. . . . F Jake Neighbours of the Oil Kings is on a 12-game point streak, with five goals and 17 assists over that stretch. . . .

The Calgary Hitmen scored twice in the shootout to earn a 5-4 victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . CalgaryEach team scored once in each of the first two periods and twice in the third. . . . F Josh Prokop and F Riley Stotts scored in the circus for the Hitmen (6-6-2), with F Brett Kemp counting for the Tigers (9-3-1). . . . F Sean Tschigerl (6) had two goals for Calgary, which got three assists from F Riley Fiddler-Schultz, who enjoyed his first career three-point outing in his 111th game. . . . Tschigerl went into this season with five goals in 64 games over two seasons. He has six goals in 14 games this season. . . . F Oren Shtrom (3) scored twice for Medicine Hat. . . .

F Jagger Firkus scored in the fourth round of a shootout to give the Moose Jaw Warriors a 4-3 victory over MooseJawthe Pats in Regina. . . . F Ryker Evans (2) had given Regina (4-6-3) a 3-0 lead at 5:01 of the third period. . . . The Warriors (6-6-1) tied it on goals from F Kade Runke (1), F Josh Hoekstra (1) and F Eric Alarie (8), the latter scoring at 19:43. . . . Regina F Connor Berard had his career-opening point streak stopped at 12 games. He was credited with nine shots on goal. . . . Bedard scored in the second round of the shootout, only to have F Brayden Yager tie it. . . . Bedard will play two more games with the Pats before going into isolation prior to joining Canada’s U18 team. . . . All three games between these teams have needed extra time. The Warriors won the first one, 5-4 in OT, with the Pats taking the second, 3-2 in OT. . . .

The Brandon Wheat Kings ran their winning streak to seven games with a 3-2 victory over the Prince BrandonAlbert Raiders in Regina. . . . F Ridly Greig (5)  broke a 2-2 tie with a shorthanded goal at 9:27 of the third period. . . . Greig scored after blocking a pair of shots on the same kill. . . . F Nolan Ritchie (6) had pulled the Wheat Kings (10-2-1) into a tie, on a PP, at 14:12 of the second. . . . F Justin Nachbaur (4) scored both goals for Prince Albert (4-7-2). . . . D Braden Schneider had the primary assist on each of Brandon’s first two goals. . . .

G Trent Miner recorded his third straight shutout as the Vancouver Giants beat the Blazers, 4-0, in VancouverKamloops. . . . Miner finished with 30 saves, meaning he has stopped all 64 shots he has faced while in the Kamloops hub. . . . Miner is the second WHL goaltender to put up three straight shutouts this season, after Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips. . . . Vancouver and Kamloops each is 4-1-0. . . . The WHL record for consecutive shutouts is four and is held by Chris Worthy of the Flin Flon Bombers (Dec. 29, 1967 through Jan. 13, 1968). . . . F Zack Ostapchuk (2) scored the game’s first goal at 10:14 of the first period. F Justin Sourdif (1) and F Justin Lies (1) added second-period goals, with F Adam Hall (4) counting in the third. . . . Lies was ejected with a checking-from-behind major at 2:18 of the third.


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Sheldon Kennedy, Swift Current and the healing process

These days, Sheldon Kennedy works at helping other people heal, and Sunday was no exception.

Kennedy survived the bus crash involving the Swift Current Broncos on Dec. 30, 1986. He also survived sexual abuse at the hands of Graham James, who was the general manager and head coach of those Broncos.

These days, Kennedy travels the country as an advocate for children and others who have been, or continue to be, victims of sexual abuse. He also spends a lot of time working on behalf of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, the goal of which is to stop the cycle of abuse.

On Sunday, Kennedy was in Saskatoon to visit with, and offer support to, survivors of Friday’s crash in which 15 people aboard the Humboldt Broncos’ bus lost their lives and the 14 survivors all were injured. The Broncos were en route to Nipawin, where they were to have played the Hawks in Game 5 of a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League semifinal series.

Kennedy, Peter Soberlak and Bob Wilkie, all of whom survived the Swift Current bus crash, and Darren Kruger, whose brother Scott died in that accident, arrived in Saskatoon on Sunday, then later travelled to Humboldt for a prayer vigil.

This kind of support is certain to help Humboldt and the Broncos’ family with the healing process, a process that really won’t end.

For proof of that, let’s revisit the City of Swift Current and all that its citizens have gone through since that blustery day in late December of 1986.

Only James and his victims knew at that time what was going on behind closed doors. The survivors of the bus crash went on to play again and, in fact, won the Memorial Cup in the spring of 1989, still with James at the helm.

The Broncos’ success was seen as an avenue to healing in Swift Current, a city of about 16,000 people who absolutely loved their hockey team.

In time, the players moved on with their lives, some going into pro hockey, others on to careers.

Kennedy was one who went on to pro hockey. Then, in 1996, Kennedy, a troubled individual by that time, blew the whistle on James, who by now was with the Calgary Hitmen. James was charged on Nov. 22 with two counts of sexual assault involving more than 300 encounters with a pair of former players over a 10-year period.

The national media, which 10 years earlier had descended on Swift Current with tears in its eyes and empathy in its words, returned, only this time it was pointing fingers. It had questions. Who knew what? When did they know it? You didn’t know anything? Why didn’t you know?

The citizens of Swift Current, who had healed perhaps as well as you ever will from the loss of four sons, withdrew into their homes and pulled down the shades. Now they were being forced to relive the past over and over and over again. Whenever James resurfaced in the public eye — and it was often — Swift Current found itself back in the spotlight. “Here we go again” could have been the city’s motto.

Through all of this, Kennedy had what was at best an arm’s-length relationship with Swift Current. He returned in 2009 for a 20-year reunion of the Memorial Cup team, but admitted to feeling that there still were “a lot of skeletons” in the community.

That changed on May 27, 2016, when Kennedy, by now mature and well into his role as an advocate, was in Swift Current to be inducted into the Broncos’ Hall of Fame. It was almost 30 years since the accident and Kennedy wanted to let the city know that it was OK to let go, that it was OK to hold your head high and to move on.

“I think it’s another day to give us all permission to move forward in a positive direction and forgive ourselves but not forget,” Kennedy told the crowd at the banquet and induction ceremony. “I think that’s important, and understanding the important role of sport and understanding the important role of community and raising kids and making sure that we create that healthy atmosphere (in which) to do so. . . . we can move beyond tragic events and there’s hope. It has to be about hope and there’s hope to learn, to accept and to move on. I think that’s important and that’s what today is, and for that it means a lot to me.”

That was the day when Kennedy made Swift Current his city.

One thing that Kennedy and Wilkie have always remembered is that they were left to heal on their own in the aftermath of the bus accident.

In his book Why I Didn’t Say Anything, Kennedy wrote: “You would have thought that someone in charge would have arranged for the survivors to receive therapy to help them deal with the shock and grief following the accident, but none of us received any kind of professional help. Nobody seemed to want to talk about what happened.”

Kennedy, in the book Sudden-Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, put it this way: “The idea that Graham James got us through the bus crash is insulting. We didn’t rally around him. The players rallied. He had nothing to do with it. And he kept the professional help from the team because he didn’t want anyone to know he was a sexual predator — keeping out professional help was his idea, not the players’. The idea of keeping the dressing room door closed came from him.”

Wilkie, meanwhile, told Eric Francis of Postmedia: “We weren’t allowed to talk about it for fear his dirty secret would come out. My mom wondered for years why we were never given any of the resources we needed to cope with it properly. Those who wanted help were told ‘no’ by Graham. Now we know why.”

That — wanting to help — was the motivation for the quick decision to fly into Saskatoon on Sunday. They know that unlike 1986 there will be professional help available to people impacted by what transpired on Highway No. 35 near Nipawin on Friday night.

At the same time, Kennedy, Soberlak and Wilkie are among the few who have survived this kind of tragedy and know that they have something to offer.

At the same time, the people of Humboldt, with its population of about 6,000, know that the hurt isn’t going to go away anytime soon. You never want to lose the memories, but there are times when you don’t want to hurt. But it always will be there, to one degree or another.

And just when you think that maybe it is gone, there will be an accident somewhere and people will remember what happened to Humboldt’s hockey team on April 6, 2018, and the spotlight will return.

If you don’t believe it, just ask the people of Swift Current, who no doubt have been reliving it all for the past two days.

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